Millions in erosion grants go to Mat-Su instead of Newtok

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Anchorage (KTUU) A “shelf ready” application from the Matanuska Susitna Borough for hazard mitigation grant funding and pre-disaster mitigation funds to move homes along the Matanuska River has been accepted by FEMA.

The $3 million grant was first approved for the village of Newtok, but the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says it failed to complete the paperwork.

“It’s really a case of Newtok’s application was incomplete. There’s a high probability that it wouldn’t have been successful and instead of letting that money disappear and go someplace else within the United States we decided it prudent to submit an application that had a high probability of success,” said Public Information Officer Jeremy Zidek.

Newtok first applied in 2015 but Zidek says it turned the money over to the state when it learned it couldn’t complete the project of relocating 12 homes to a location better protected from erosion. Newtok applied again but Zeidek says the application was incomplete.

“We worked very hard with the community to develop that 2015 application and of course we were disappointed when we couldn’t go forward with those projects,” said Zidek.

On Friday, Mat-Su Borough Assembly Member Jim Sykes said he hadn’t received the official word the borough would be receiving the funds but some ideas on where the money could be spent. He says a section of river bank could be protected or homes in the flood plane could be purchased.

“Everything that we do is expensive there have also been buy outs. That actually turns out to be the cheapest thing to do because it gets people out of the flood plain and gets them to a safe place and the land is never built on again,” said Sykes.

Channel Two News contacted the Newtok Village council attending the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage but was told no one was available for an interview.



 
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